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Steve Wariner

(courtesy of Countrystars.com)

You have to be crafty to do this. You need a meticulously plotted strategy, figuring out all the angles, anticipating the changes in taste, style and business practices. You have to pore over the research, examine the data. That's how you stay on top in a field as changeable as country music for twenty years. You must plan every step.

Or you can do it like Steve Wariner. "I just go where the music takes me," the award-winning singer/songwriter/guitarist says with a shrug.

Twenty years after recording his first single, with more than a dozen #1 songs and 30 Top Ten singles under his belt, Wariner is hotter than Georgia asphalt. His guitar work and singing with Garth Brooks ("Longneck Bottle") and Anita Cochran ("What If I Said") helped those songs hit #1 on the country charts. Two songs that he wrote, "Nothing but the Taillights" and "One Small Miracle," have become huge hits for Clint Black and Bryan White respectively. His total domination of the charts was solidified with the powerful ballad, "Holes In The Floor of Heaven," the first single from his new album, Burnin' The Roadhouse Down.

"I've never had a record that had a reaction that's anything like the one this song is getting," says Wariner. "I've heard people call in to radio stations and relate their lives to the story in the song and they start crying. It reminds me of how amazing the power of a song can be, how much it can touch somebody. To be part of that is just an awesome feeling."

Wariner began his music career as a teenager, playing bass and singing in Dottie West's band at 17. By 1977, he had his first "singles" deal as a solo artist, thanks to Chet Atkins at RCA. "Chet was my first producer," says Wariner. "I was recording my first four songs and the session was crazy. It was the day after Elvis Presley died and of course, the TV networks all wanted to talk to Chet during my session. I'll never forget that day."

Wariner battled for airplay alongside such country legends as Merle Haggard, Charley Pride and Conway Twitty with his debut record, and remembers that the competition for radio airplay was fierce. "I was just trying to write the best songs that I could. I was around all these country music icons and I just tried to shut up and learn how to be an artist." By 1980 he scored his first Top Ten hit, "Your Memory." For the next decade, you couldn't read a record chart without seeing Steve Wariner's name at the top. He had moved from RCA Records to MCA, where he worked with producer Tony Brown, finding chart success with such self-penned hits as "I Should Be With You," "I Got Dreams," and "Baby I'm Yours."

After his album, Drive, Wariner wanted to do something completely different. Known as one of the best guitarists in the business, he started work on an instrumental album, calling on artists like Chet Atkins, Richie Sambora, Leo Kottke and Vince Gill to appear on the album, called, No More Mr. Nice Guy. "The main thing was to have fun," Wariner says about the 1996 album. "We just left the machines on and we were laughing and joking and playing. I told everyone upfront that there was no pressure on this because I know it won't get on radio. So just play whatever you want to. I'm making this one for me." The album was nominated for a Grammy. Unfortunately, one of the competitors in the category was Wariner's old friend, mentor and first producer, Chet Atkins. "I knew he would win," says Wariner. A week later, Atkins gave that Grammy award to Steve, saying that he was the one who really deserved it. "It was an incredible gesture. He gave me his Grammy, which I have right now in my house," says Wariner.

Today all that he's learned as a performer, songwriter, producer and musician have come together in Burnin' The Roadhouse Down. Once again, he's going where the music takes him, and it's clear that he has come up with the most brilliant plan of all.

Previous Bio information:

When Nashville insiders sit around on back porches or backstage sippin' whiskey and talking great guitarists, one name that's sure to be greeted by saga nods of the head, low whistles and possibly an amen, is that of Steve Wariner. Edward Morris of Billboard has called him "a dazzling guitarist," Music Row pundit Robert Oermann says, "Steve simply doesn't know how to make bad music," and no less an authority than Garth Brooks has hailed the fast-picking Hoosier "the Nolan Ryan of Country."

The public, however, may think of Steve more as the rich-voiced and warm-hearted singer of such No. 1 hits as "The Tips of My Fingers" and "Leave Him Out of This." In fact, Steve's songwriting and singing in tandem with his picking have garnered him 27 Top Ten Singles (12 of them No. 1 hits), a gold album (I Am Ready, 1992), a Grammy (for "Restless," a 1991 collaboration with Ricky Skaggs, Mark O'Connor, and Vince Gill as The New Nashville Cats), a 1991 CMA Award for Vocal Event of the Year for "Restless" and eight BMI Songwriting Awards.

But from the time he first began playing guitar back home in Noblesville, Indiana, under the tutelage of his father, Roy, a guitarist, amateur bandleader and skilled foundry worker, Steve has thought of himself as a student of the six-string. Now with the release of his first instrumental album, No More Mr. Nice Guy, Steve brings to fruition a dream several years in the making. But let Steve tell you about himself. "The fun thing about this record is that it takes me back to my roots," he says. "My dad had a little band and he'd play around on weekends for fun and extra bucks." By age 10, Steve, clearly a natural, was regularly joining Roy on the bandstand. "A guitar player is all I wanted to be growing up," Steve says. "All my buddies would be out playing football and I'd be inside listening to my Chet Atkins records and James Burton solos and picking out their licks. If I had to work on something by listening for hours to figure out one little lick, I would. But when I was a teenager, the bands I was in needed a singer, so I learned songs just to fill up the sets. I received attention for singing, so I did more of it. I never took it that seriously because I always thought of myself as a guitarist. Now, after all the hits and everything, this record brings me back to where I started."

The project had long been on Steve's mind. When he felt the time was right, he approached Tim DuBois president of Arista/Nashville. Basically, I said, "For 15 years I've had one single out after another. You know right now might be a good time to take a breather because I feel I'm sort of between commercial projects." He wanted to think about it a little, but since I have a recording studio in my home now (in Nashville), I went ahead and started fooling around with it. Then I called Tim and said, "I hope you don't mind that I'm doing this." "and he said, 'No, it's fine. Go ahead and run with it.' It turned out we both felt the time was right."

Steve is just as entertaining off stage as he is on. Although he's modes about his abilities and downplays his magician skills by saying he's "rusty," Steve is an expert at slight-of-hand. He is also quite knowledgeable about the great performing magicians of history, but his specialty is "close up," not big-stage magician tricks. That, he explains is why he never incorporated magic into his concert act.

Steve can steal a quiet moment at the home he shares with his wife, Caryn, and sons Ross and Ryan, he often goes to his private studio to paint. He works in watercolors, a medium that demands concentration, dexterity, control and taste. "I think the creative impulse just overrides it all; I've found that a lot of musicians do art. When I'm off the road, I'll get up and paint for hours; it's almost like therapy. All of a sudden you turn around and it's daylight." His other passion is sports. Steve gets plenty of workouts on the basketball court as well as on the baseball diamond. He may be mild-mannered most of the time, but steve becomes a fierce competitor when he hits the gym.

With so many skills at his disposal, you'd think he would have rocketed to superstardom. Instead, his career has been more like a smooth kite glide upwards. But good things come to those who wait. And finally, Steve Wariner is where he belongs. "I am just so fortunate," says Steve. "

But regardless of sales or success, I'm going to be making music one way or the other. That's the way I look at it. I love it too much. It's all I've ever done."

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